The draft picks have been made. Last year’s rookies have been in the gym. Now it’s time for a test drive.
The Lakers’ young talent will look to make some noise in Las Vegas over the next week or so, as Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and friends hope to take home the 2017 NBA Summer League title.
Here’s what to look out for as the Lakers get a preview of next year’s squad.
1) The Zo Show
Nobody in Vegas will be showered with as much attention as Lonzo Ball, who will make his unofficial Lakers debut on Friday.
Four months removed from his last collegiate game, some rust should be expected, but the No. 2 overall pick stated his mission clearly: “Win the whole thing.”
While the Lakers’ summer offense will be kept to its simplest form, this tournament will still be an interesting glimpse at Ball’s abilities to direct his teammates and make plays in transition.
Ball — who led the NCAA in assists last year with 6.7 per game — should be exciting in this fast-paced Summer League environment, especially on a Lakers roster with scoring talent at each position.
Rope Work ➰
A post shared by Los Angeles Lakers (@lakers) on Jun 29, 2017 at 12:54pm PDT
2) Sophomore Shooting
With their rookie years in the past, Brandon Ingram and Ivica Zubac both figure to be big pieces of the Lakers’ future. A key to their development will be adding some outside shooting to both players’ repertoires.
Ingram’s potential as an elite 3 and D talent will ride largely on his ability to hit from deep. At the end of his first season he developed a knack for attacking the basket and using his length at the rim. But his jumper never really came along, as he made just 32.2 percent of his J’s, including 29.4 from 3-point range.
But Ingram has spent the offseason reworking his mechanics with assistant coach Brian Keefe, making Summer League an interesting testing ground and perhaps an indicator of what’s to come.
Zubac, meanwhile, has been anxiously awaiting his chance to splash from deep. He took only three 3-pointers last season, missing all of them. However, he has supreme confidence in his shot and went 4-of-11 on triples in the NBA G League. Look for him to let it fly when he’s got an open shot beyond the arc.
3) Class of ‘17
While eyes will be locked on Ball all tournament long, three more draft picks will seek to capture some attention in their purple and gold debuts.
Ball’s former Pac-12 adversary, Kyle Kuzma, has drawn rave reviews from general manager Rob Pelinka, who was ecstatic when the Utah product fell to the Lakers at No. 27 in last month’s draft. A top five scorer and rebounder among his conference, Kuzma has impressed in the Lakers’ gym with his passing ability and positional flexibility.
On the opposite side of the floor, 30th pick Josh Hart received praise from Summer League head coach Jud Buechler for his intensity on defense. Hart — the Big East Co-Defensive Player of the Year — and defensive savant/returning Laker David Nwaba figure to be a smothering duo for opposing wings in Vegas.
Finally, Thomas Bryant will look to duplicate Zubac’s performance last year as a second-round center who turns some heads with a strong summer showing. Bryant’s offensive strengths come when running the floor and shooting from 3-point distance, and the Summer League style of play should lend to plenty of those opportunities for the former Indiana Hoosier.
A post shared by Los Angeles Lakers (@lakers) on Jul 5, 2017 at 5:23pm PDT
4) Nuthin’ But A G Thang
Fans of the NBA G League need no introduction to Vander Blue, who has been lighting up the scoreboard for the Los Angeles D-Fenders (now South Bay Lakers) for the past three years.
The reigning NBA G League MVP, Blue is one of the best offensive talents not currently in the NBA. Armed with an elite ability to attack the rim and a jumper that’s true from mid-range and deep, Blue ranked third in the league in scoring (24.8) and led it in made free throws (7.7).
He might not be a household name now, but don’t be surprised if Blue — who is also the G League’s third-leading scorer of all-time — gets buckets in this up-tempo summer format.
A post shared by Lakers Scene (@lakersscene) on Jul 5, 2017 at 8:26pm PDT
5) Head-to-Head Heat
While the NBA’s veterans don’t participate at Summer League, the Lakers will still have some interesting individual matchups to measure themselves against.
It all begins on Friday when the Lakers’ future meets its past, as the LA Clippers bring a roster that includes former Lakers Anthony Brown and Kendall Marshall.
Saturday features a summer episode of the Lakers-Celtics rivalry, when Ball faces off against the man drafted right after him: Jayson Tatum. Plus, it will be a battle of last year’s second and third picks — Ingram and Jaylen Brown — as well as teammates from the Croatian National Team — Zubac and Ante Zizic.
Then pool play rounds out on Monday, as Ball gets an NCAA Tournament rematch against former Kentucky star De’Aaron Fox in a battle of top rookie point guards.
After a little bit of rest, it then becomes win or go home, as the first round of the Summer League tournament tips on Wednesday.